Dharamsala, January 23
The Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute (IGFRI) has asked the state government to identify land for a pilot project for pasture conservation. Several hectares in the state are under threat from invasive plant species.
Invasive species’ spread alarming
- Invasive species have spread over 14 lakh hectare in all districts, excluding Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti
- Migrating shepherds are facing hardships due to the loss of pasture land in the area
The institute, in a letter, has asked the government to identify suitable areas to develop model grasslands, which can further be replicated in other parts of the state. The project will benefit several farmers, especially those engaged in dairy industry. At present, several farmers have to purchase fodder from Punjab and Haryana.
As per conservative estimates, invasive species have spread yo over 14 lakh hectares in all districts except Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti. Migrating shepherds are facing hardships due to loss of pasture land.
Akshay Jasrotia, president of the Migratory Shepherd Organisation of Himachal, says that herdsmen in the state own around 22 lakh sheep and goats. “Their livestock are dependent on grasslands. However, the state has no policy for the protection of pastures. Shepherds are losing grasslands either to development projects or invasive species and weeds,” he adds.
According to a study of Himachal Pradesh Agriculture University (HPAU), invasive species lead to 90 per cent reduction in the productivity of pasture land. Moreover, overgrazing also allows weeds to dominate over grass species, affecting plant biodiversity, the study mentioned.
Scientists of the Indian Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology have recorded the presence of another South American weed in Himachal. Its effects on local ecology are yet to be studied.
Parthenium species are known to cause health issues such as bronchitis, dermatitis, fever, allergies and vomiting in human beings. Some weeds also affect animals, leading to loss of hair, weight and damage to liver. Scientists of the university have initiated some steps such as release of mexican beetle (zygogramma) to control the growth of parthenium.
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